Analysis Paper

1.Record your first impression(s) of the artwork. What stands out? Is there a focal point (an area to which the artist wants your eye to be drawn)? If so, what formal elements led you to that area? Your impressions can help you reach your THESIS about its MEANING.

2.What is the Subject matter of the artwork? What concepts or ideas are explored in it?

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3.Composition: How are the parts of the work arranged? Is there a stable or unstable composition? Is it dynamic? Full of movement? Or is it static?

4.Pose: If the work has figures, are the proportions believable? Realistic? Describe the pose(s). Is the figure active, calm, graceful, stiff, tense, or relaxed? Does the figure convey a mood? If there are several figures, how do they relate to each other (do they interact? not?)? Remember “pose” is the relationship of parts to one another, “stance” is the arrangement of the feet, and “posture” is skeletal.

5.Proportions: Does the whole or even individual parts of the figure(s) or natural objects in the work look natural? Why did you come to this conclusion?

6.Line: Are the outlines (whether perceived or actual) smooth, fuzzy, clear? Are the main lines vertical, horizontal, diagonal, or curved, or a combination of any of these? Are the lines jagged and full of energy? Sketchy? Geometric? Curvilinear? Bold? Subtle?

7.Space: If the artist conveys space, what type of space is used? What is the relation of the main figure to the space around it? Are the main figures entirely within the space (if the artwork is a painting), or are parts of the bodies cut off by the edge of the artwork? Is the setting illusionistic, as if one could enter the space of the painting, or is it flat and two-dimensional, a space that one could not possibly enter?

8.Texture: If a sculpture, is the surface smooth and polished or rough? Are there several textures conveyed? Where and How? If a painting, is there any texture to the paint surface? Are the brushstrokes invisible? Brushy? Sketchy? Loose and flowing? Or tight and controlled?

9. Light and Shadow: Are shadows visible? Where? Are there dark shadows, light shadows, or both? How do the shadows affect the work?

10.Scale or Size: How big is the artwork? Are the figures or objects in the work life-sized, larger or smaller than life? How does the size affect the work? Remember “size” is a quantitative number while “scale” is the relationship of the work to the human body.

11.Color: What colors are used in the work? Bright? Dull? Complimentary? Does the artist use colors to draw your attention to specific areas of the work? How? If a sculpture, examine the color(s) of the medium and how it affects the work.

12.Mood: Do you sense an overall mood in the artwork? Perhaps several different moods? If so, describe them. How does the mood interpret how you view the work?


This paper is a thesis essay in which you need to make a claim about the object and prove it through formal analysis and maybe some background information.


The essay paper should be 2 to 3 pages and include the following:


Introduction: In your introduction, you MUST identify the work by artist’s name, title of work, date of work, and medium. Note that titles of artworks must be italicized (this rule does not apply to architecture). You should also reference an illustration of the work (see instructions for this below). Make sure that your intro is to the point and that every statement is meaningful to your point – DON’T use vague language or generalizations.


Your intro should also include a thesis statement that reflects your ideas about the work. The thesis statement may, in general, answer a question like these: What do I think is the meaning of this work? What is the message that this work or artist sends to the viewer? What did it originally mean for the artist/patron/audience?


Body: Write a minimum of 4-5 paragraphs about what you see and describe the composition in an organized way so that anyone who has not seen it can visualize your description. Your formal analysis should include not only a description of the piece, but especially those details of the work that have led you to come to your thesis – in other words, what do the forms mean? Choose themes for your paragraphs that focus on the formal aspects of the work (ex: one paragraph may deal with composition, another with a description of the figures, another with the medium, representational style, iconography, etc.). You could also describe the forms as you see them, either from the top to the bottom or one side to the other. Make sure you use the vocabulary that we have used in class to talk about the artwork.

One of the paragraphs should present a counter argument: some objections that a potential viewer may have about your interpretation of the meaning of the work.


Conclusion: Summarize what you have stated in your paper so that the reader is left with a clear idea of what the object means and how that meaning comes through fruition. How has your paper proven your thesis?


Citations: However, you may use some research to verify the data you collected. I strongly urge you to avoid reading what other people wrote about the same object, but if you do and your ideas coincide with those of other authors, you MUST CITE them. If you are writing about a work of art in a museum and you use information from the museum object labels/wall text or website, you MUST cite them as footnotes and in a separate bibliography with other sources at the end of your paper. If you decide to quote from the museum’s object label, for example, be sure to include a footnote like this:

Museum label for Wifredo Lam, The Jungle, Cuban, Modern, 1943, Museum of Modern Art, New York, 3 November 2020.


In your bibliography, cite these sources like this:

Museum of Modern Art. Museum label Wifredo Lam, Cuban, Modern, 1943, Museum of Modern Art, New York, 3 November 2020.


Illustrations: You MUST include an image of the work of art on a separate sheet at the end of your paper titled “Illustrations.” Your image caption should include the name of the museum where you found the work and its accession number (Accession numbers are cataloging numbers usually given on the label. ie: 1989.5.67).



Your paper must be PROOFREAD, double spaced with standard margins and standard fonts and font size (Times New Roman, 12).

Papers should be turned in in the following order:

1. Final copy of your paper

2. Bibliography and/or Illustrations (see format above)

Use the following link for the artwork

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